Why Historical Fiction?

As I complete the edit on third volume of the Shiloh Saga, I am looking on to what I may write next.  Of course, I plan to finish Mac and Laurel’s story, but after that I wonder where I will find my next story line?  I am sure it will be historical fiction.  Recently I read a devotional that confirmed for me why I find this genre so important and special.

In the tenth and eleventh chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, Moses commands the people he has brought out of Egypt to tell the children of the deeds God did to bring them safely to the Promised Land.  He reminds them they did not see these miracles and had not experienced the acts that lead them through the Red Sea and fed them in the wilderness.  He said, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds…Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up…”  Deut. 11:18-19

Moses was talking about the need to save their history.  That is what I love about historical fiction.  When good writers weave the past into their storylines, they are preserving bits of our story that may be lost without their telling.  That is why their research is so important.  Plot lines and good characters are the vehicle to carry the past.  Good writers of historical fiction generate interest in those places and events of times past, and the stories they weave helps their readers remember.  It is the responsibility of our generation to pass on what we know about our country, our culture, and our families to the next generation.  Without this, they will have no history to pass on to their children.

For Christian Historical Fiction writers, I believe, it is crucial to tell young people how God has impacted us.  We have an obligation to show them how faith, Christian values, the perseverance of the early church, and lives of the people who came before us have made the world we live in possible.  This is our witness to the next generation.

And we tell it in a story…because we want them to remember what the Lord has done for us.

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This is the site of preserved homestead near Dalton, in Randolph County, Arkansas.  This an example of a single pen cabin.  There were no glass paned windows.  The logs had been hewn to make them fit together more evenly.
Eli Lindsey Marker
Rita Thomison very graciously sent me this picture to include with this story. This marker is on the site of the Lindsey home place in Lawrence County about a mile from the Eli Lindsey Memorial Methodist Church.  John Stoll and his wife Elaine minister to this congregation today.

April, 2018

April has been a busy month in my world.

  The Dream of Shiloh is out, and people are asking for volume 3 of the Shiloh Saga.  I have been traveling to share stories about my books and having a wonderful time visiting with friends and family in the process.  Let me share a bit of what I’ve been doing…

April 1 was a glorious Easter Day…the weather was not glorious, but the spirit at church was beautiful and the joy of celebrating our risen Savior is always worth the excitement of the best holiday of the year, regardless of the climate.  I love Easter. It’s my favorite time of year, in case I haven’t made that clear.  This is our Easter picture…Kennedy, Tara and me.

Easter

On April 3, two of my high school classmates and I traveled across Arkansas to Winslow Arkansas to do a book chat with the book club of another high school classmate…Mind you, we celebrated out fiftieth high school class reunion last July so we’ve been friends for a long time.  Jamae Craft Fulmer invited us to her beautiful mountain home in the Boston Mountains and asked a dozen or so of her Mt. Harmony book club friends in to talk about In Search of Shiloh, which they had read together.  Such fun we all had.  They asked some of the best questions, many of which I hadn’t really thought about and had to think really quickly on my feet to come up with a good answer.  They welcomed us so warmly.   They even bought copies of The Dream of Shiloh and want me to come back later to talk about that one! Brenda Davis Thakkar and Jeanette Murray Clayton drove with me to Washington County, and another classmate, Chyrlene Hamby Noblin, who lives in Springdale drove over to join us.  We finished the evening with a “bunking party” and went the next day to Crystal Bridges to see the fabulous art display.  Don’t let anyone tell you Arkansas doesn’t have a first class Art Museum in the state!!! Fantastic exhibit.

 

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The Mount Harmony Book Club In Washington County, Arkansas…Had a Great Time, Girls.

 

 

High school pals
Five happy classmates from the class of ??…Brenda Davis Thakkar, Jeanette Murray Clayton, Jamae Craft Fulmer, Chyrlene Hamby Noblin, and Patricia Clark Blake.

 

On April 8, I had another birthday, but we won’t linger on that subject…

On the 9th, I took The Dream of Shiloh over to the Greene County Library in Paragould to add to their Local Author’s section.  They had already purchased In Search of Shiloh.  I wanted to see it on the same shelf as John Grishams’ books, but it was checked out.  That was a wonderful surprise.  They treated me so special…so graciously and invited me to come back in May and do a book talk and signing for them in their library.  Librarians in our local libraries are such fine folks.  I hope you support our public libraries when they ask for those tiny mileage increases.  This is a selfie my granddaughter Kennedy took of herself on the beach at Muscle Shoals, reading her Nanna’s latest novel.

Kennedy reading my book

Two days later, I found that the Crowley’s Ridge Regional Library also had In Search of Shiloh in their collection.  I went up there to see it…but found out it was checked out too! Since that is my home county, I need to go up there and donate them a copy of the second book, too.

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At home, I’ve been editing Volume 3…Beyond Shiloh.  Today I finished chapter 19.  I think I have four chapters to go to finish the first read through.  I’ll be ready to share it with my beta readers soon.  The Lord has been good to me this year….The books are being well accepted and I love writing them.  I think I may have found my calling.

 

 

A New Interview with John Cunningham

I hope you will take a few minutes to read this interview I did with John “Jack” Cunningham.  Jack is a member of my historical fiction critique group, and he has been very helpful in reading my story and making suggestions for historical accuracy.  He was also the first person who asked me to do an author’s interview.  I hope you enjoy this.

A New Interview

An Arkansas Quiz

  1. There are five major rivers in Arkansas that have been used for commerce and navigation by steamboats.  Name three of them.

  2. Three families made up the “Family” of early Arkansas politics.  Name two of them.

  3. Arkansas is the only state in the United States where diamonds have been found.  Where can you ‘mine’ diamonds today?

  4. The world’s largest rice processing mill is in Arkansas.  Do you know where it is located?

  5. Arkansas is notorious for our nationally televised school integration of Central High School conflict in Little Rock.  This was not the first school integration in Arkansas.  Do you know where the first integration took place, much more civilized and peaceful?

  6. Was Arkansas a true son of the South and eager to enter the confederacy at the time of secession in 1861?

  7. What was the name of the first newspaper in Arkansas?

  8. What historical site is preserved in Dyess, Arkansas?

  9. Arkansas has the privilege of having the first woman in United States Senate.  Do you know who she was?

  10. What is our state bird?  (No, it is not the mosquito!)

Let Me Tell You about Eli

Eli Lindsey, a nineteen year old, was the first circuit rider in Arkansas holding regular services in an official circuit.  He was authorized under the Tennessee Conference to the new Spring River Circuit in 1815, twenty-one years before Arkansas was to be named a state.  This was indeed quite a feat for such a young man.  Lindsey preached regularly between Batesville and villages in the surrounding areas through 1816.

There is still on going debate as to where the original church was located, but Lindsey is known to have preached many places in those early days.  Old stories tell of his preaching in his log cabin with its dog-trot and even his smokehouse.  Some tell of the “fine church with the stone chimney” in a large log cabin  near what is today  Lake Charles in Lawrence County.  Before his death, Lindsey and his family made their way to Grant County where he is buried in an unmarked grave in a cemetery with many members of his family.

Eli was quite a character.  There is an old story that told about one service he was preaching when a bear stopped it cold.  The story says Eli ended the service with a prayer thanking the Lord for “men who can shoot and women who can pray.”(Britton, Two Hundred Years of Methodism in Arkansas: 1800-200. p21.)

Why do I take the time to tell you about this little known disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ?  Lest we forget the role our early circuit riders played in opening the wilderness for civilization and the growth of our faith, such great men must be remembered.  Lindsey alone was said to have ridden a circuit that covered from the White River to the Little Red River to the Strawberry to the Spring River…what at that time was Lawrence County.  If you look at a territorial map of Arkansas, Lawrence County was roughly the upper northeast quarter of the state.  One learned man, riding a horse, preaching the gospel, caring for the people he met, and helping the frontiersmen begin to tame the wilderness is the picture we have of this young man and the others like him of the few denominations, the early Baptists and Disciples of Christ,  that were riding circuits at that time.  They established home churches, much like Paul and the apostles did in the New Testament.  One such church grew to be the church Lonnie Thomison and his family attended in the Shiloh story.

The Eli Lindsey Memorial Church in Jessup, a tiny community in Lawrence County, Arkansas, is still a viable congregation today.  It is the oldest continuous Methodist congregation in Arkansas.  Attributed to Eli Lindsey as beginning in 1816, with the original building site being a mystery, Eli’s home site is approximately a mile behind the present church building.  The first Shady Grove church building was constructed in 1848 or 1849 on that same site, and it would have been the building where Laurel and Mac would have celebrated their first Easter together.  Lon made his profession of faith in that log church on that Easter morning.  Shady Grove was rebuilt in 1905 as a beautiful rock church that still stands today.  In 1948, they church was renamed to honor Eli Lindsey for the work the circuit rider did in bringing the gospel to the Arkansas wilderness.  The church is a National Methodist Historic Landmark.

John Stoll and his wife Elaine serve the Eli Lindsey congregation today, and they have bimonthly services in the historic church.

Eli Lindsey Memorial Methodist Church, Jessup
The first log church was erected here in 1848-1849. The stone church you see was build in 1905.

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The altar of the Eli Lindsey Memorial Church in Jessup Arkansas. The Church has beautiful stained glass throughout the sanctuary.
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Early members of Shady Grove Church. Lon could have known them.

The current Lawrence County Judge John Thomison and his wife Rita are dear friends of mine and they came to my recent book signing at First United Methodist Church Jonesboro.  They live near the site where Eli Lindsey lived in the 1800’s, and today there is a simple marker that indicates his homesite existed at one time in Lawrence County.  They have promised me a field trip to see the  marker as soon as we have enough frost and cold weather to kill the chiggers and ticks.  I am looking forward to seeing this historic place in person.

Eli Lindsey Marker
Rita Thomison very graciously sent me this picture to include with this story. This marker is on the site of the Lindsey home place in Lawrence County about a mile from the historic church.
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Rita, Me, and John in our Atrium at FUMC Jonesboro.

Laurel’s Memories…as she leaves Hawthorn for her new home in Shiloh.

Below is an example of a single-pen cabin, much like the one Laurel’s father would have built for his family in the mountains in Washington County in the early 1840’s.  Notice the shutters that would have covered the oiled paper over the windows.  Laurel commented that only the single glass-paned window in the front room allowed bright sunlight.  She also told Mac she hoped to have real glass windows in her home someday.  Those of you who have read In Search of Shiloh probably remember those conversations between the two newlyweds.  Also you’ll notice the cabin is tall enough to allow a loft where Laurel’s sleeping area would have been.  This log house is actually near Dalton in Randolph County, but the style and structure is what I imagined for the Campbell homestead.DSCF5165

A second strong memory would be the rugged mountain terrain they travelled in their small wagon, pulled by the mules across the Boston Mountains.  Roads at that time were little more than “suggestions of paths from one point to another” according to journalist of the day.  They had to make their way over rocky areas and cut their way through forests when necessary.  Except for the military roads, which were certainly not modern highways by any means, travelers made their way the best they could.

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A third memory from the early part of the story would come from finding shelter under the stone shelf near the Buffalo River not far from Jasper.  Indeed with the wagon as a wind break, a couple of oil cloth tarps, and a roaring camp fire such this natural outcropping would indeed be a Godsend to Laurel and Mac.  This stone shelf and the scenes above are near the beautiful Buffalo River in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. Imagine Mac and Laurel in these beautiful places.DSCF3511